Three of the best women’s kit for ultra running

If you’re off to run in the mountains this summer, or lucky enough to have an ultra race still going ahead in 2020, GRTW coach, Lucja Leonard gives us the lowdown on must-have kit essentials

I often get asked what type of kit I use on ultra races, in particular longer, mountainous ones over 50 miles. A lot depends on the terrain, environment, seasons and, up to a point, how long it will take you to do the distance. But there are a few must-have items that I wouldn’t go without and that are worth spending money on, as the quality can make a huge difference, not just to your comfort but your personal safety. 

Vest or Running Pack

Once you start going long, you need something to carry your water, food and kit which is comfortable and won’t chafe.  There are so many to choose from, including Ultimate Direction, Naked Sports Innovations, Nathan Sports, Camelbak and Salomon who all offer female-specific varieties which reduce bounce but also have adjustable chest straps to fit across any bust size. 

My personal favourite is the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta, £96 from Wiggle with a 10.3L capacity so that there is enough room to carry mandatory kit, snacks and space for two 500ml soft flasks in the front.

It’ also has lots of other pockets, including space for my iPhone for easy access, as I’m a big fan of taking plenty of photos on the run. It even has a spare hairband in one of the pockets. 

Alternatively, the Naked Vest $124.99 (US only) which is super minimalist so it’s light. but you have to combine it with their Name Running Band, $49.99 to ensure that you have enough space for everything.  It does what it says on the tin, you forget you have it on because they are so comfortable and you choose the size that will fit you like a glove.

Lucja at the Ultra Mont Blanc ultra race in 2019
Lucja, at the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc race in 2019 modelling the UD poles, vest and Naked Running Belt

Waterproof jacket

No ultra would be complete without four seasons in one event, so you need to ensure you have a jacket that will keep you dry, or you will end up extremely miserable and cold, or worse still, end up in such a state that you need medical attention. 

My absolute favourite is the Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2, from £175, which rolls up to the size of a grapefruit weighing only 160g, with a waterproof rating of 30,000mm. This exceeds any mandatory race requirements and has the required tapered seams and hood. 

I love mine and although it’s pricey, if you look it properly it will last you for years. There are other great options on the market, from the likes of Montane, Salomon and WAA Ultra but avoid cheaper brands that just won’t keep you dry.

Trekking Poles

There is always arguments for and against using poles, and some races don’t even allow them at all, particularly UK/Scottish races. But in Europe and the USA they are highly encouraged and for a mountain ultra, I wouldn’t go without mine. 

Poles help reduce the stress load on the body (by up to 25% according to a 1999 study) and can be used for added propulsion which helps the overall goal, to conserve energy and utilise it in other more necessary areas. 

Most packs include loops to stash your poles when you aren’t using them. I prefer to use my running band to stash them behind me as opposed to the front of my bag because I’m always worried I might fall and they will will stab me in the eye!

There are a lot of poles to choose from, but my favourites are the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles from 140 euros and the Ultimate Direction FK Ultra Poles, from £150 both super lightweight (273g and 165g respectively), carbon fibre and collapse down and back up easily.

Check your kit list

Although I’ve managed to narrow it down to three must-haves as a starting point for any runner tackling longer distances, always ensure you follow the race mandatory list, along with and your experience and that of others.

Get strong for trail running, with the GRTW online Hit for Ultra Running course created by Lucja.